AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Austin is closely monitoring potential flooding threats over the weekend, especially the Waller Creek Tunnel and how it handles water intake.
During the last series of heavy rains, the tunnel, which is designed to reduce flooding through the downtown corridor, failed to intake the amount of water which left the area around the creek under high water. On Friday — days before the impending storm — crews with the Watershed Protection Department are putting plans in place to make sure any threat is reduced.
“We’ll be looking very closely at the areas surrounding Waterloo Park, specifically Park Street, Red River, Trinity and 15th Street,” Ramesh Swaminathan, managing engineer for the Watershed Protection Department said. “We will also be looking at certain low areas that are prone to flooding in the downtown district like Eight Street, Ninth Street and those areas.”
KXAN’s First Warning Weather Team is predicting up to six inches in the next several days. Rain amounts like that have crews also taking a closer at the tunnel near 12th and Red River where barge screens can sometimes get clogged with debris. “The water can back up, you could have some street flooding because of it,” Swaminathan said.
Long-time construction has parts of the tunnel still waiting for completion. The system for removing debris from the intake facility was scheduled to be completed in 2015, but that has been delayed by at least a year.
“The barge screens are there, but there are devices that can be lowered into it and remove the debris that essentially unclogs the screens and that system is currently under construction,” Swaminathan explained.
The construction has created concerns the creek and the intake facility may not do its job. Swaminathan says they’ve been proactive about draining the pond and removing the debris. “We have cleaned the barge screen and everything we have done, everything we can do to keep the system ready.”
Along with Waller Creek, the city is also monitoring all the other creeks and rivers in the area to make sure first responders can react in a timely manner. The city of Austin is also in communication with the Lower Colorado River Authority to ensure everyone is aware and sharing information regarding potential lake floodgate operations.
As of Friday evening, plans call for the Flood Early Warning System teams to be on operational overnight on Sunday, to monitor conditions, along with city public safety and first responder staff.